Key to Life: A Retreat?

It was 7 years of constant go.  It was like heaven to me.  Edward Cullen, from Twilight, explains it best,

“Your scent is like a drug to me like my own personal brand of heroin.”

Well it was my job.  It was like my own personal brand of heroin.  I lived for it, breathed it, and slept with it.  It was everything I ever wanted.  The opportunity to help others, multi-task, lead projects, speak to groups, train, teach, lead, and act as a change agent for an organization.

Everyday I woke up and jumped out of bed.  I was eager to get to work and start another day.  What could I conquer?  What could we accomplish?  What steps could we take to turn this thing around?  Oh how I loved that job, but then something happened.

My body began to warn me that it couldn’t handle the stress.  It didn’t like the fact that I ran myself 24/7, and that I never rested or relaxed.  It didn’t like that my mind was on continuous overload and that I obsessed over how I could do more to move the organization forward.

Life happened.  A death of a close family member started it.  Well that caused a small pause.  It was actually some major life transitions that caught me off guard.  I could have seen them coming but I had let the job completely define my life.  I was helping people.  What’s wrong with that?  I was developing the organization so it would do great things?  So what’s the problem.

Well the problem was I hit a wall.  Life transitions, and an EKG woke me up.  Soon after I would wake up and figure out that I was burned out.  I had picked up the baton 7 years before and never quit running.  My body was telling me it was time to stop, and so was my mind.


What I needed to keep from burning out, and from losing myself, was a retreat.  To be effective a retreat needs to be planned on a consistent basis.  When we need help we may go to a mentor or counseling session on a weekly basis.  For a retreat to be helpful we need to experience it on a consistent basis.

Here are some concrete, physical ways to retreat from life.  Thomas Moore considers this a way to care for the soul.  Whatever we call it, it can help us ensure we know who we are, why we do what we do, and ensure we are headed where we want to go.

  • Grab a blanket and sit in your yard.  When was the last time you walked through the grass barefoot?  When was the last time you just sat in the yard and enjoyed your yard?
  • A quiet break, where we mediate or write down our hopes and dreams.  What if we made a place in our home to keep our thoughts.  It could become a very special place.
  • Walk through nature, not the mall.  Moore recommends taking a walk through the woods instead of the mall.  Even the thought of the silence and the beauty there calms my soul.
  • Put the phone down, and turn the t.v. and computer off.  What a thought.  Even during my crazy days I found time to mess on my phone, watch a little t.v. and obsess over the computer.  There was no retreat, and most things I did led me back to work.
  • Art?  What if we listen to music, gaze at a piece of art, sculpture, or create a piece of art.  We can retreat into creativity.
  • You name it.  What is something you can do every week to retreat?  It’s important.

My last day came.  On Monday I was home and sat in our black recliner.  The kids went to school and I was alone.  What made me who I am was gone.  I was clueless on how to proceed.  It would be five months before I went back to work, and I spent that time in retreat.

It included a blanket and the back yard.

A good book in silence.

Working on our landscaping.

Shoveling gravel.

Bike riding.

Enjoying everyday tasks.

I hadn’t had a retreat in 7 years.  So it was hard to get in the habit of it, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  A year later and I am still on a journey of re-discovery.  I am learning who I am, what I want to do and where I want to go.  Part of the journey includes consistent retreats.  Those times I now cherish.

We live life once.  Let’s live it not just go through it.

Marcy Pedersen



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